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While many elements of the AR-15 platform are ingeniously engineered and have held up well over time, there are certain parts of it that can use updates over its nearly 60-year-old design. Because the way the rifle’s manual of arms has evolved over the decades, its controls must too. The standard charging handle that comes with most AR-15s is just one of those parts that is due for a modern intervention. Current-day weapon manipulation concepts place more force on the charging handle than that of the past. As a result, in its standard form, the charging handle can be difficult to use and clumsy to manipulate.

The handle’s thin release latch gives the user little leverage when pulled on and at times can even make it feel as if the bolt carrier group is putting up a fight from being racked back. Obviously, this is not an advantageous feature when trying to clear malfunctions. Aside from operational flaws, there are mechanical drawbacks too. When charging the rifle, the handle is pulled back at an angle and the tiny 1/16-inch roll pin that keeps the charging handle’s latch in place bears most of the applied force, making it a potential failure point. In fact, we’ve seen roll pins fail a couple of times, putting an end to that rifle’s use for the day.

This may not be a big deal when you’re out at the range for some casual plinking, but it could be a bigger concern when taking a shooting class you spent some major cash to be in or while in a shooting competition when every point counts. What’s even worse is if it fails when you’re in a life-threatening defensive situation. Fortunately, there is a solution to these problems. Or more accurately, there are many very well thought out and innovative solutions to these problems in the form of aftermarket charging handles.

At first, aftermarket charging handles started out alleviating the problem of leverage by simply changing out the stock thin latches with larger latches. But these latches were directly swapped out and still used the failure-prone 1/16-inch roll pin and original charging handle’s architecture. As development carried on, designers and engineers came to market with their own solutions to the problem. Now we are fortunate to be able to choose from a large selection of well-designed charging handles that solve or ease the aforementioned problems as well as others, such as the lack of ambidextrous use of the original design.

In the following buyer’s guide, we feature charging handles that are made for the AR-15 platform rifle. If you are looking for a larger handle intended for .308 and 7.62 NATO ARs, you’ll see them listed under the “Variants” category if available for that model. Enough talk; let’s take a look at the newest technology in AR-platform charging handles.

VLTOR/BCM BCMGUNFIGHTER Charging Handle (5.56mm) w/ Mod 4 (Medium) Latch

  • Weight: 1.2 oz.
  • MSRP: $48
  • Variants*: 5.56 w/ Mod 3 (L), Mod 5 (S), 7.62 w/ Mod 3 (L), Mod 4 (M), Mod 5 (S)
  • URL: bravocompanyusa.com

BeatenZone Mfg. Generation 3 / No.7 Advanced Tactical Charging Handle

Black Rain Ordnance Milled Charging Handle – NorGuard

  • Weight:  1.3 oz.
  • MSRP: $109
  • Variants*: .223 Black, .308 Black, .308 NorGuard
  • URL: blackrainordnance.com

Fortis Hammer – 5.56mm (Nickelene)

  • Weight: 1.5 oz.
  • MSRP: $59.95
  • Variants*: 5.56 Black Teflon, 7.62 Nickelene, 7.62 Black Teflon
  • URL: fortismfg.com

Phase 5 Battle Latch/Charging Handle Assembly

Precision Reflex, Inc. M84 Gas Buster Charging Handle w/ Combat Latch

  • Weight: 1.7 oz.
  • MSRP: $89.95
  • Variants*: M84 Dark Earth, 308 Gas Buster
  • URL: precisionreflex.com

SOG Armory Charging Handle w/ Tac Latch

Strike Industries ARCH-EL

  • Weight: 1.1 oz.
  • MSRP: $29.95-$49.95
  • Varaints*: ARCH, ARCH-308, ARCH-EL-308
  • URL: strikeindustries.com

AXTS Raptor Charging Handle – 5.56mm

  • Weight:  1.3 oz.
  • MSRP: $89.95
  • Variants*: 5.56 in Nickel Boron, FDE, Tungsten, Burnt Bronze, 7.62, 7.62 Cerakote
  • URL: axtsweapons.com

VLTOR/BCM BCMGUNFIGHTER Ambi. Charging Handle (5.56mm) w/ Mod A44 (Ambi)

  • Weight: 1.2 oz.
  • MSRP: $75
  • Variants*: 5.56 Black Teflon, 7.62 Nickelene, 7.62 Black Teflon
  • URL: bravocompanyusa.com

Mega Arms Slide Lock SL-400

Phase 5 Ambidextrous Battle Latch/Charging Handle Assembly

Troy Ambidextrous Charging Handle

POF-USA Ambidextrous Charging Handle

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